The No-Frills Guide To Entering A Composition Competition

Say “Composition Competition” 5 times fast… it’s tough. Almost as tough as actually entering one. I submitted some of my music for judgement just last week. Having been through a competition more than once, I’m starting to learn what to expect and how I’ll feel. What better way to share that with you than in a 28-step program?

How To Enter A Composition Competition in 28 Easy Steps!

Name: ____________ (you’ll need it for your application)

1. Learn that the competition exists. (for me, via Google Alerts)
2. Read the guidelines carefully.
3. Estimate the work required.
4. Commit.
5. Reconsider.
6. Commit again.
7. Write the submission deadline in your calendar, or on your arm.
8. Work backwards to figure out how much time you will actually have to write.
9. Recover from the shock. Time is already running out.
10. Recommit.
11. Summarize the idea for your piece on one piece of paper. Don’t lose it.
12. Work on the core ideas, stringing together the scraps into a cohesive first draft.
13. Look at the calendar. How did two weeks go by? Sweat a little.
14. Recommit.
15. Step back and consider at the overall feel of your new piece. Does it match your original plan? It doesn’t matter either way, just accept it or change it.
16. Fill in details you missed in the first draft.
17. Delete adequate but boring chunks of music. They’re time fillers.
18. Rewrite the boring parts.
19. Add final details and edit.
20. Proofread.
21. Tweak.
22. Triumphantly declare yourself finished. You’re out of time anyway.
23. Resist the urge to tinker.
24. Organize your application.
25. Lick the envelope. (Or add attachments to the email and press Send.)

26. On the way to the post office, gingerly cradle the envelope like you would your only child. Be vigilant for rain, open flames, street vandals, enthusiastic children, and large crowds.
27. Give deliberate instructions to the postal worker. Repeat the instructions. Laugh nervously. Visually inspect the date stamp on the envelope. Wipe clammy hands on pants. Watch the envelope slide into the darkness. Retreat.

28. Repeat steps 1 to 27! It won’t be so hard next time, right? Laugh at your own joke.

This has been my experience in writing music for competitions. Did I miss a step?

2 thoughts on “The No-Frills Guide To Entering A Composition Competition”

  1. And in fact I found this post because one of my Google Alerts is for “composition competition.” 🙂

    I think step 28 should be “fully relax and let go, because you now have no further control over what happens.”

    Good luck with whatever you sent out…

  2. Too funny! I agree, you need to step back and let go of stress once the work leaves your hands. Often us composers can be hard on ourselves.

    Thanks for the comment and all the best in your writing as well!

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